About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
What the devil is wrong with NASA?
It's reasonable to ask: what is wrong with NASA? Where are the brave and smart people who brought us on the Moon, avoided the Apollo 13 disaster, and landed the Viking probes on Mars? A reasonable answer was actually fictionally forecasted in the 1978 movie "Capricorn One," where NASA was so embattled with fund cuts that it decided that a planned manned mission to Mars was just too dangerous, so they fake it in a TV studio!
In recent years, NASA's most spectacular failures have included the loss of two shuttles, and a botched mission to Mars that missed the red planet altogether, apparently because engineers working on the project didn't think of clearing with each other whether they were using the metric or the "British" system of measurements (why is the US the only industrialized nation still measuring things in inches, anyway?).
The most likely factor accounting for NASA's problems is that several years ago they made the bold move (again to convince Congress to keep supporting them) to re-engineer the space program along the lines of "faster, better, safer." As any optimazation analyst would tell you, pick any two...